Why do so many international sports governing bodies locate in Switzerland? Here is the answer:
Back in 1915, the French baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, chose Lausanne as the IOC headquarters: a city on the shores of a beautiful lake, with a wonderful view of the Alps – and far away from the turmoil of First World War.
Since then, 23 federations and 20 international organisations have followed suit and set up their headquarters in Lausanne and the surrounding canton Vaud. Switzerland as a whole is home to 47 international sports bodies. Its nearest rival, Monaco, has five.
But as the business of sport is globalised and more and more countries are eager for their share of the pie, Switzerland cannot rest on its laurels, experts say – and has no intention of so doing.
"The tradition of hosting international organisations goes back to the 1920s, when the League of Nations was established in Geneva,” says Jean-Loup Chappelet, an expert on the management of sports organisations at the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration in Lausanne.
“After the IOC, other sporting bodies like Uefa [the Union of European Football Associations] and Fifa [world football’s governing body] naturally turned towards Switzerland,” he added.
Piermarco Zen-Ruffinen, a specialist in sport law at Neuchâtel University, told swissinfo.ch that Switzerland is attractive for many reasons: its geographic location, highly qualified work force, political stability, neutrality, security, quality of life, plus an attractive tax regime and legal code.
“The Swiss law on associations is extremely simple and hugely flexible. Furthermore, the slowness of the legislative process offers a lot of legal security,” he said.
Chappelet explained that associations are not obliged to register with the state nor to publish their accounts. “When the civil code was drawn up in 1912, no-one imagined that there would ever be such huge associations. Fifa is in effect a holding which owns public limited companies, but its statutes are the same as those of a bridge club.”